Capping Off Bruce Willis’s Action Career with Satisfying ‘Independence’

Detective Knight: Independence

Rating: 9/10

Director: Edward John Drake

Writer: Edward John Drake

Style: Action/Crime Thriller

Time: 90 minutes

Trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt-hyQE-sIA

Rated: R

Review by Mike Szymanski

Jack Kilmer and Willow Shields star in the third part of this trilogy

This crime thriller trilogy of the Detective Knight series is a fitting finale to Bruce Willis’s action movie career.

Of course, everyone hopes and expects Willis to conquer his aphasia, which is a language disorder that affects a person’s ability to speak, listen, read and write. And maybe, he will come back to the movie world, but at 67 years old, Willis’s action days are certainly numbered, and he announced after finishing this trilogy of films that he would retire. (Of course, don’t tell that to his 76-year-old buddy Sylvester Stallone.)

This Detective Knight series which I was lucky enough to review, starts off with “Detective Knight: Rogue” which takes place during Halloween, then “Detective Knight: Redemption” which occurs around Christmastime, and the last of the trilogy is “Detective Knight: Independence” which takes place around the Fourth of July. So, it’s kind of a seasonal trilogy.

According to director and Willis’s longtime friend Edward Drake, the final part of the trilogy was going to take place over Valentine’s Day, but the marketing department at Lionsgate suggested the fireworks holiday.

And so, the three seasons of Willis’s final films are encapsulated in this crime series, and it portrays a fitting end to an explosive career. Arguably, of course, Willis already made his Christmas action film with “Die Hard,” which also takes place during the end of the year holidays, but these are just as exciting, and will all be available to watch on demand very soon.

The first two of the trilogy pit Detective Knight (Willis) up against a series of gangsters, which in both of them involves a nice family man Casey Rhodes (played by Beau Mirchoff) who gets in with the wrong people at the wrong time. He’s only mentioned in this third section.

This third part features another handsome hunk named Dezi played by Jack Kilmer, who is the spitting image of his father Val Kilmer in his younger years, particularly his dad’s 1984 first film “Top Secret!” His mother Joanne Whalley (“Willow”) is also an actress. Jack is very handsome and has long hair that unfortunately is pulled into a bun most of the movie. I am sure we will see much more of him in upcoming films as an adult, but he has already been around quite a bit, going back to the movie “Palo Alto.”

Dezi is playing an Emergency Medical Technician who has a girlfriend Ally (played by Willow Shields as Primrose from “The Hunger Games” movies). They are both EMTs and both smoke cigarettes and snort drugs, and yet they both say they want to help change the world for the better.

This movie is a beautiful story that shows how a good-guy with great intentions like Dezi slips into a bad-guy mode. He fails his interview to become a policeman, his father’s altruistic children’s program gets defunded, he gets beat up by police thugs at a cop bar, and he listens to a right-wing conspiracy nut who espouses people taking control and fighting back. Despite his beautiful girlfriend, Ally, who herself has a lot of family baggage, Desi goes down a dark path.

Step in Detective Knight, who is trying to rectify his relationship with both his wife and his daughter, who is now an adult, and he still brings her little teddy bears — the same one every year — but she doesn’t want to deal with him and refuses to even see him. When Knight interrupts his wife on a blind date, she tells the guy, “Don’t mind him, he will eventually do what he is good at — leave.”

In all the movies, Detective Knight is a legend, but he has run into his own set of problems. His partner, played by Lochlyn Munro (Betty’s dad in “Riverdale”), was shot in the first movie, in a wheelchair in the second, and is fully recuperated in this one, reviving his role as Knight’s partner.

They have a funny relationship, when his partner goes off yelling obscenities about the criminals, Willis deadpans: “Thanks for your expertise.”

This movie has a bit more artistic tricks in it, using split-screen and multi-screens at times to show what is going on from multiple perspectives. The whole first bank robbery is shown from a gunman’s point of view with the gun barrel in front.

Dezi comes to the scene with Ally to clean up the bank robbery mess and take care of the victims, but they are dissuaded from helping one of the wounded robbers and instead help a bank manager. When the manager ends up suing the department and the EMT company, it enrages Dezi even more, who was told his “moral compass was skewed.”

Dezi spirals out of control as he marks his face with a victim’s blood as if starting a war.

Director Drake, who shot nine movies with Willis, said, “I shot the opening credit sequence on my iPhone during post-production. I wanted to show how seeing law enforcement and paramedics in action is an everyday occurrence of living in Los Angles. The choice to black-out the eyes of the officers, victims, EMTs, and pedestrians was a way to show we’re all anonymous in this city. One day you’re on top, the next day some EMT is scraping your brains off the road.”

Los Angeles is a big character in the film, with lots of well-known landmarks such as museums, parks and City Hall in the background, but most of the movie was shot in Las Cruces, New Mexico over one week.

The director notes: “I’m grateful to cinematographer Laffrey Witbrod. He captured this crime-drama with a keen eye for the raw realism of everyday life in Los Angeles. “

The movie, Drake says, “is a film about perspective. Dezi is seeking greater meaning to his life and has become disillusioned with how effective police officers are. Dezi recognizes the power of the badge but fails to understand the responsibilities. After allowing himself to be brainwashed, Dezi’s murderous attempt to become a Dark Knight (see what I did there?) for Los Angeles can only be stopped by Knight played by Bruce Willis.”

He adds, “The conceit of the film comes down to dueling ideas of justice: can Knight live up to the oath of bringing justice to Los Angeles–which can mean protecting victims from themselves–or will he seek revenge on Dezi and use his privileged status as a cop to cover his motives?”

The music is much more notable in this last movie, with a nice song at the beginning.

Overall, this is a tribute to all of Bruce Willis’s amazing work. Along with “Die Hard” his resume includes work with the best action directors of this generation: Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”), Terry Gilliam (“12 Monkeys”), M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”), Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom”) and many others.

See the movie in select theaters and major VOD platforms on January 20, 2023. It is out on DVD and Blu-ray on February 28, 2023.

Read my reviews of the trilogy:

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